After 6 Ped Deaths in 3 Months, SF Needs City Hall Action on Street Safety

In the first three months of 2013, six pedestrians have been killed on San Francisco streets. At that rate, the city is on course for pedestrian deaths to rise for the third year in a row.

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe tells ## today##, "We know what we need to do" to save lives. "We need action from our leadership."

The trend is striking: Since 2010, when 14 pedestrians were killed on San Francisco streets, more have died each year since. There were 17 deaths reported in 2011, and at least 19 deaths in 2012. (The Examiner reports that police data shows 20 deaths that year, and five this year. By our count, it appears one of those deaths may have been mistakenly counted in 2012. We’ve reported on six deaths this year, with the first occurring on the morning of New Year’s Day.)

From 2000 to 2008, pedestrian fatalities were on a downward trajectory: 2000 saw 32 pedestrian deaths, and 2008 saw 13, the lowest number within the period. The rate of pedestrian deaths in the first three months of 2013 is nearly twice as high as the rate in 2008.

Will Mayor Ed Lee go beyond publicity shots and take leadership to curb the rising number of pedestrian deaths on San Francisco streets? Photo: ##

Mayor Ed Lee’s office says the city’s final version of the Pedestrian Strategy, which will include a plan to fund the pedestrian safety improvements that are needed, is expected to be released this week, KTVU reported today.

“We know how to fix these streets,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF. “Delay here means tragedy.”

The latest victim is Tania Madfes, a retired teacher who died in the hospital last Wednesday after she and her husband were run down by a driver in a crosswalk at West Portal Avenue and Vicente Street. The SF Chronicle reports:

A San Francisco woman who devoted her career to encouraging girls to pursue opportunities that had been denied to her has died after she was struck by a car while crossing a street in the West Portal neighborhood with her husband.

Tania Madfes, 68, and her husband, David Madfes, were returning home March 21 from an evening at the Berkeley Repertory Theater and were walking across Vicente Street at West Portal Avenue when a car struck them at 9:40 p.m.

“We were crossing Vicente and – I can’t reconstruct in my head what happened – next thing I knew this car was there,” David Madfes said Thursday. “It hit my leg just as it came to a stop, and I fell and my wife was lying on the street on her back.”

Tania Madfes suffered brain injuries and died Wednesday at San Francisco General Hospital. David Madfes suffered minor injuries to his leg. The driver, whom police have not identified, stopped and cooperated with investigators, police said.

“I looked up as we hit the ground, and the walk sign was green,” Madfes said. “At this point, I see it as a tragic accident.”

Police did not arrest the driver, but will forward the case to the district attorney for further investigation, said Officer Gordon Shyy, a police spokesman.

Tania Madfes. Photo courtesy of Madfes family via ##

Stampe said the organization hopes District Attorney George Gascón will “seriously consider charging the driver who killed” Madfes. As we’ve reported, charges are rarely brought against drivers who kill pedestrians as long as they stay at the scene and aren’t intoxicated.

“Too many times, drivers who injure and kill pedestrians see no penalty at all,” said Stampe. “Drivers who kill rarely even have their license suspended, much less the kind of consequences you see with any other crime that results in death.”

This Thursday, the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee is set to hold two hearings on pedestrian safety. One will focus on District 7, where three of this year’s pedestrian deaths have occurred, including that of Madfes. The hearing was called by D7 Supervisor Norman Yee, who has said street safety is one of his top priorities. A subsequent hearing called by Supervisor London Breed will focus on citywide pedestrian safety issues and hear a report from the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee.

“At this hearing we hope to learn what exactly city agencies are doing to keep us all safe when we walk,” said Stampe. “Are the police citing drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians? When will the mayor take action to make our streets safer for everyone?”

Streetsblog will be checking in with the DA’s office for an update on how many drivers have been charged for recent pedestrian deaths.

  • Anonymous

    Every single week day afternoon, Market Street gets blocked up by cars crossing over from Bush Street and Battery Street to 1st Street – presumably FiDi office workers heading to the Bay Bridge to go to their East Bay homes. The SFPD doesn’t even try to ticket drivers at that intersection which, frankly, has a big delay on MUNI buses heading inbound downtown and really makes crossing 1st Street on the south side a scary endeavor.

    Every single week day afternoon.

    The most predictable spots where enforcement is needed are ignored.


  • Anonymous

    I fully support the message that pedestrian deaths are a major problem, that street calming is a critical priority, and that the city needs to stand behind “transit first”. But I think when looking at statistics it’s always important to appreciate that random variation year-to-year is a substantial fraction of totals when dealing with numbers in this range, so only long-term trends have meaning. It’s clear there’s a major problem here, though, whether or not it’s better or worse than 2012.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    But Jamie, didn’t you know, “You can afford Benicia!”

    There is only one solution to this problem and that is a $50 rush hour toll on the bridge. And I’m not kidding.

  • mikesonn

    Every single week day afternoon, 3rd gets blocked up by cars crossing over on MARKET (you know, the “car-free” one). The 30/45/8x just sit and sit and sit through several light cycles as drivers try to be the last one through the intersection. There is zero enforcement, of course.

  • justin

    I complain about this regularly to the police, mayor, SFMTA, etc. The other day I sent this to the SFPD via 311:

    “Hello, Can you please tell me why there is no enforcement of drivers blocking crosswalks and intersections in the Financial District? All day, every day, drivers put pedestrians in danger and block MUNI by running red lights and entering intersections where there is no room for them, causing gridlock. I have never seen anyone get a ticket for this.”

    I received this response within hours:

    “Hello! Traffic enforcement is enforced in the downtown area. If there is a specific street/area you are referring to, please let us know and we will look into this matter. Please also keep in mind that we do not have enough Police Officers to cover the entire Financial District strictly for traffic enforcement only.”

    Last May, I sent a complaint through the mayor’s office, which was forwarded to the SFPD chief, whose office sent me this:

    “Traffic enforcement is a major priority for the San Francisco Police Department. As such, we continually work on enforcement efforts throughout the city. At this time, Captain Denis O’Leary of our Traffic Company has assigned Traffic personnel to engage in a 30-day enforcement action plan in this area. Although we continue to enforce traffic concerns regularly, at times it is essential to do a concentrated effort.”

    I never once saw anyone get a ticket, let alone a police car or motorcycle in the area.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Maybe give them a specific place and time to patrol? Give them a chance, at least.

    To be fair to city enforcement efforts, there is a standing patrol at 1st and Folsom during evening rush hours, ticketing for blocking the box. You may not notice them as much because they no longer write the tickets on the spot. They just take photographs and process the violations later.

  • Anonymous

    Enforcement is only to be aimed at bicyclists, mike, you know that!

  • justin

    you don’t have to…it happens at literally every intersection in the FD. Walk around for 2 minutes and you will see it.

    I am really happy to hear about the enforcement south of Market, and especially the great, great idea to use photos.

  • vcs

    A decade+ ago, the traffic control officers used to blanket the financial district, and were present at almost every major intersection. My conspiracy theory is they took them off traffic duty and have them out in the hoods handing out parking ticket$.


In SF, Victims of Traffic Violence Don’t Have Equal Protection

SF District Attorney George Gascón is set to bring felony vehicular manslaughter charges against Chris Bucchere later today for biking into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui in a crosswalk at Castro and Market Streets, killing him. Any traffic death on our streets deserves a thorough investigation with appropriate charges filed against the responsible party. But this high-profile case raises […]